Coping during the Holidays

Immediately after the loss of a loved one, all of the emotions seem overwhelming.  As time passes, the pain may seem to ease and our feelings might soften a bit.  Just when many of us think we are coping well, events or reminders can take us immediately back to the intense feelings of grief and loss.

 Triggers of sadness and sorrow can occur often during the holiday season. The holidays are a time we think of families being together, laughter, food, church services, and gift exchanges. The flicker of a candle, the scent of a Christmas tree, the words of a friend, or a sermon by the preacher can instantly bring back memories and create sadness and feelings of loneliness.

 Here are a few tips to help lift a saddened heart during this time of year.

  • Recognize that grief and sadness is a genuine and expected emotion. Don’t put it away or try to ignore it. Remember your loved ones by saying a special prayer for them, burning a holiday candle in their memory, buying a poinsettia or other plant as a living memorial, adorning their gravesite, or hanging a unique ornament on your tree in their memory.
  • Find things that console you and let your needs be known to family and friends.  You may find comfort in talking about memories of your loved one’s special place in your life and reminiscing about the holidays you celebrated together. Draw strength from friends, family, and your spiritual beliefs and let them guide you during difficult times.  
  • Take care of yourself. Reduce anxiety and feelings of exhaustion by making time for good nutrition and plenty of rest.
  • Plan ahead and look forward to being involved during the holiday season. Visiting with friends, going to church services, cooking with family, and giving your time as a volunteer or donating to charity will provide you with many opportunities to serve others as you keep your loved one in your heart.
  • Don’t be afraid to make changes. Consider opening gifts on a different day, attending a new place of worship, or having your holiday dinner at a different time. Many people also decide to travel during the holidays to “get away for a while.”
  • Attend a coping seminar. Many bereavement departments at hospice agencies offer “Coping during the Holidays” presentations that are open to the community. Call your local hospice agency to find out if they offer this type of program where you can gain knowledge of coping techniques, share and exchange ideas, develop your own personal holiday plan, and learn how to support others who are grieving during the holidays.

 It is very important to remember that people deal with their heartache and feelings of loss differently. The holidays are for celebration, memories, friends, family, prayer and thanksgiving. Let the season and the happiness it represents lift your heart and bring you comfort and joy.

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